Headphones. They are an essential piece of equipment for most people shooting and editing video. But with so many different options out there, what on earth do you choose? And how do you know which ones are the best option for your needs? In this video, DIYP asks Sennheiser‘s Simon Beesley for the lowdown on which headphones you should be using when, and why.
Now before we get too far excited about ‘The One Headphone to Rule Them All’, Simon has some disappointing news. “There is no such thing,” he says. “There’s an idea headphone for a specific situation, but there’s no one headphone that covers every eventuality.”
Well, that’s a bummer, but we suspected as much. Sennheiser explains that this is why they produce an entire range of headphones to suit different scenarios and needs.
Run and Gun
So let’s imagine then that we are a videographer using a Sony FX3 (that’s a real leap of imagination there considering that’s what the DIYP team are using this week at IBC 2022!). Which headphones would be best for monitoring the audio in this type of situation?
Simon suggests using the HD25 for this. These headphones are a firm favourite among video shooters. They are lightweight and have a split band which makes them far more comfortable for the wearer. They are closed back or supra-aural, meaning that they sit on the ear which gives you a good amount of separation but you’re still aware of your environment. These headphones have become very popular among DJs as well, something that Sennheiser had never predicted when they first brought them to market.
But what if you’re not using them outside? What if you’re a content creator sitting at your computer in your own home? What would be the best headphones to use then?
For this, Simon says you want something closer to a studio monitor headset. Comfort is a major factor in choosing the right pair of headphones. If you’re wearing them for long periods of time then one that completely covers the ear is going to be a better choice. Sennheiser’s HD200 pro is a great starting point for this scenario.
What about cables? Some headphones have coiled flexible cables which are great if you’re moving around. You won’t risk pulling the cable out of the socket by accident.
Closed or open-backed?
And for editing audio in a quiet environment? Well for this we need to understand the difference between closed-back and open-back headphones. Closed-back headphones are good if you’re working in noisier environments and need some separation from background noise.
“Open back headphones will actually serve you better,” says Simon, “as long as you’re in a crystal clear quiet environment.” That’s critical for hearing absolutely everything. Scenarios such as a recording studio or editing and mixing music would fit this. Headphones like the Sennheiser 400 PRO are perfect for these types of jobs.
The HD300 PRO Protect model has a unique feature. There are European regulations that limit how long somebody working with high levels of noise can be exposed for. These headphones have a protection device built in which means that your ears won’t get damaged even if using them over a long period of time.
EQ or no EQ?
One other thing that’s important to know: consumer headphones that are built purely for listening to and enjoying music usually have the EQ built in. By that, it means that the audio is being mixed by the headphones themselves. This makes the listening experience more enjoyable, often the bass is increased for example. However, for anyone working with recording sound or engineering, editing and mixing audio, you really need headphones that give you the raw un-EQ’d sound. That way you know that what you’re listening to is the original audio. It’s similar to a RAW image file versus a Jpeg that the camera processes.
One last point that Simon mentions is about wireless and Bluetooth headphones. Most of these exist in the consumer market, and Sennheiser has deliberately not made a move towards wireless headphones. This is because with Bluetooth headphones there is normally a lag or latency. This makes it nearly impossible for anyone who is trying to sync audio and video, so wired is definitely still the way forward for doing this job.
This is fascinating stuff and some things I’d never even considered with choosing appropriate headphones. Now we know, thanks to Simon and Sennheiser!